A 23-year-old man walked into a police station in the southern village of Bellegarde on Tuesday evening to ask police to verify whether he may have committed the sexual assault and murder of a young girl.

"/> A 23-year-old man walked into a police station in the southern village of Bellegarde on Tuesday evening to ask police to verify whether he may have committed the sexual assault and murder of a young girl.

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CRIME

New suspect in murder of 8-year-old girl

A 23-year-old man walked into a police station in the southern village of Bellegarde on Tuesday evening to ask police to verify whether he may have committed the sexual assault and murder of a young girl.

Eight-year-old Océane went missing on Saturday evening after going to visit a friend. Her body was found in a vineyard on Sunday morning after an extensive search involving police and 300 volunteers.

The autopsy revealed the girl had been sexually molested before being suffocated. She had also been stabbed four times, most likely after her death.

News channel LCI reported that the new suspect is a drug user who is known to police.

Public prosecutor Robert Gelli said the man “couldn’t remember what he did on Saturday evening” as he was drunk. “He had a blackout” he said.

He is being tested for a DNA match and was still being questioned on Wednesday morning.

Earlier, a 73-year-old man who had been held for questioning since Sunday was released after DNA tests revealed no match. The man, a neighbour of the girl’s family, had a previous conviction for sexual assaults on young boys.

Locals told journalists the uncertainty was causing continuing concern in the village of 6,000 inhabitants.

“We are looking at everyone, wondering who it can be. It must be someone from the village,” said one woman, named Véronique, to news channel BFM TV.

Océane’s parents are believed to have left the village to stay with relatives. A march in memory of the girl will be held on Wednesday.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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